Walls in burnt umber :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Lord Narasimha, ferocious and leonine, has a prominent space in Dinesh R Shenoys first floor home-cum-studio in Mattancherry. The deity in place of pride beatifically oversees the artists works displayed contiguous, side-by-side, top-to-down on the adjacent walls. The monochromatic works, in burnt amber, celebrate Keralas historical landmarks in oils and Shenoy, the devotee, claims to be just an instrument of the divine in the process of his art.

Finding solace

His faith springs from an unseen benevolence of the Gods that has helped him survive an impoverished childhood and his fathers terminal illness. It has brought him and his family safely to this state where his creativity has blossomed and is bringing him accolades and solace. He began by taking Math and Art tuitions as a 15-year-old, not knowing anything about the use of colours. Sketching was his strength. The one memory he carries is of a persistent yearning to paint through those tough days and of his fathers encouraging voice.

Cut to the present. Shenoy has recently won a contract to paint five portraits of eminent personalities for the Dutch Palace Museum, and is labouring over them along with son Achutha, a budding artist.

Called Chitrasala Art Gallery and Centre for Heritage Monument Studies the space has “more than 450 works”. A drum set, a corner table displaying a collection of old coins and stamps of Cochin Maharaja are other curiosities in the studio. He was a drummer, as a young boy, and participated in local music functions. The passion to collect antiques - coins and stamps - is handed down from his father. His love for history stems from these.

The impact of burnt umber sketches in the studio is powerful and the obvious query is on the use of a single colour. “It is a long story. I could sketch well but never had the luxury of an entire set of oil tubes. My desire to learn painting was noticed by an artist Joseph Newton who took me, very reluctantly, under his care. He mentored me in the use of colours and introduced me to the works of the great masters. I was particularly influenced by Rembrandt. If you notice, most of the masters do their preliminary sketches in single tones.”

Strangely, Shenoys studio is also a moveable space, he the itinerant artist who carries his wares to the heritage site. “I carry my easel, a tube of paint, five to six brushes and sketch on location,” he says, ruminating on the days when he painted on a canvas propped against his bed in a small stuffy room.

Now, with ample space that is also a gallery and a centre for monument studies, Shenoy is free to take visitors on a little walk talking about the historical sights that he has immortalised in his art.

When he works in the atelier, some light music playing in the background creates a mood, but the outdoors is studio as much. Bright lights or the commotion of the curious crowds are no distractions.

“I have created my own style, a signature now. This studio has come after many years of work, this is heaven for me,” he says beaming. Shenoys works are found in museums, clubs, hotels and homes across Kerala.

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